“Light Beyond the Shadows: The Legacy of the Czech Torah Scrolls and the Renewal of Jewish Life in Czechia,” by Sheila Pallay and Julius Müller
The book weaves a beautiful pictorial history with stories of Jewish heritage in Bohemia and Moravia, connecting the reader with places that once had vibrant Jewish communities. It details a thirteen-week tour through the Czech Republic by Sheila Pallay, photographer, and Julius Müller, genealogist and guide, documenting current and mainly former synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and memorials commemorating their lost Jewish citizens.
In 1942, the Central Jewish Museum in Prague contacted every Jewish community in Bohemia and Moravia, asking that they send all of their remaining possessions to Prague. As a result, a treasure of 212,822 liturgical items survived the Holocaust, including 1,800 Torah scrolls. In 1964, the scrolls, many terribly damaged because of inadequate storage conditions, were offered for sale by the Czech communist government. 1,564 of them were delivered to the Westminster Synagogue in London, purchased by a philanthropic British lawyer.
Shortly thereafter, Westminster Synagogue established the Memorial Scroll Trust, MST that has since cared for the scrolls. Over the following 30 years about 12 soferim, Torah scroll scribes, evaluated and repaired over 1,200 scrolls. These were then sent on permanent loan to caring congregations and communities in North and South America, Europe, Israel and South Africa.
There are 7 Torah scrolls, attributed to the Pacov synagogue on permanent loan to congregations in the US and the UK.
Jeffrey Ohrenstein, chairman of the MST wrote in the book’s Foreword that the MST is in communication with the congregations with scrolls, and “encourages their use in meaningful ways.” The hope is that the community will document the Jewish history of the place their scroll came from, along with the fate of their former Jewish residents, ensuring that their lives are never forgotten.
Rabbi Joseph Meszler, Spiritual Leader of Temple Sinai in Sharon, Massachusetts writes about Temple Sinai’s precious Torah scroll from Přeštice. The scroll is between 200 and 250 years old and he reflects on how the scroll was used throughout the years before the Shoah, and how it has continued to be in use 75 years afterwards. Another testimonial is from Rabbi Emeritus Norman Patz of Temple Sholom of West Essex Cedar Grove, New Jersey, writes a touching story about how the Dvůr Králové Torah came to their congregation.
Throughout the book we hear from others affilifated with the MST in the US, Lois Roman and Susan Boyer, as well as Rabbi Kevin Hale, torah scribe. and others with personal stories about their connection to former Bohemian and Moravian Jewish communities.
Watch the panel discussion, LIGHT BEYOND THE SHADOWS with authors Sheila Pallay and Julius Müller and MST Trustee Lois Roman. Hosted by Rabbi Joseph Meszler, Temple Sinai, Sharon, Massachusetts.
YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzZQy3jD5Gk
The book preview is available at http://toledot.org/SZS3.pdf
You can purchase the book through the following vendors:
In the UK, the book is available in English through the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust. 18 pounds, link through the MST Trust Shop. https://mstshop.org/collections/books/products/light-beyond-the-shadows
In the USA, the English edition is available through Temple Sinai in Sharon, Masssachusetts, on the Paypal link below. It is $25 plus shipping.
The Czech version is available in the Czech Republic, 540 Kč by contacting Julius Müller: firstname.lastname@example.org